Interview: 'The Flash' Showrunner Aaron Helbing On Evil Speedsters And Kevin Smith Directing

At the end of The Flash's second season, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) made a bold decision to go back and time and prevent his mother's murder. So season three will pick up with the Flashpoint story inspired by the comics. They've cast multiple new villains including Dr. Alchemy and Savitar.

Over the summer, we spoke with showrunner Aaron Helbing (who runs The Flash along with his brother Todd Helbing) after The CW's DC superhero panel for the Television Critics Association, which included the announcement of a Flash/Supergirl musical crossover. The Flash returns tonight, and Helbing previewed season three's stories and characters. 

Are there more evil speedsters than good ones at this point?

[Laughs] Well, I would say based on our current count, sure. We hope to level the playing field I guess as the season progresses.

Does that mean introducing even more speedsters?

We introduce Kid Flash in "Flashpoint." We've set up Wally West, even from season two as being this need for speed. I think as the season progresses, we definitely plan on exploring Wally West and potential abilities.

Introducing Kid Flash in "Flashpoint," is he still Wally West when we get back to Earth 1?

Well, yeah, because the way the season ended, he doesn't have powers. Yes.

Why was Dr. Alchemy the right Big Bad for season three?

I think we wanted to explore a non-speedster. There will be another speedster as well that we announced, Savitar, in addition to Dr. Alchemy. It felt interesting to have someone like an alchemist who can take X and turn it into Y, and how essentially that's what happened with Barry. Barry was a normal CSI and then he got struck by the particle accelerator and became The Flash. When you have someone like a Dr. Alchemy, one, we were just excited because he's been a villain in the comic books for so long. We talked about ways to try to bring in Dr. Alchemy. We're always trying to look at new ways to bring in the vast sea of villains that we have to play with. I think with Dr. Alchemy it just felt like a really interesting angle to go this season.

And then why Savitar?

Savitar is a very evil speedster.

More evil than we've seen Reverse-Flash and Zoom?

I don't want to qualify the levels of evil because evil is evil, to be honest. He's gonna be a really powerful villain. He's going to be a really formidable adversary for Flash and the team. In much the way Harrison Wells as Reverse-Flash, the season one Thawne Flash and the season two Zoom, I feel like Savitar is going to pick up the mantle and will continue that mantle of evil speedsters really well, put it that way.

Do any of these new speedsters challenge the way you do the visual effects?

You know, with Reverse-Flash, he vibrated and we had the red lightning. It does. Every year we try to challenge ourselves and Armen Kevorkian, who's our VFX supervisor, and everyone at Encore, they step up to the plate. It's a significant challenge. I think with Savitar it's going to be just as big of a challenge as it was bringing Zoom to life and making him as menacing as possible.

You also just cast Grey Damon as Mirror Master.

I'm super excited to see Mirror Master and Captain Cold in the same episode. So Wentworth [Miller] is coming back in addition to Grey. I've been a huge fan of Grey's. I loved him on Aquarius. I loved him on Friday Night Lights so to be able to work with Grey again is just going to be amazing.

Is that during Flashpoint if Captain Cold is back?

I can't say.

Is there another way you can bring Captain Cold back?

Well, because of the world that we live in, because of time travel, because just anything is possible. This is what I love about The Flash. Nothing is ever off the table. The way in episode 217 when Barry went back in time, we saw Eddie Thawne still alive and how that affected Barry emotionally. When you're in The Flash universe, anything is possible.

That's true, it could be the Captain Cold before he got on the Waverider.

Everything is on the table. That's what I'll say. Everything is always on the table with the show.

The Flash Season 3 - The Flash and Kid Flash

Are you also casting a gender-swapped Rosa Dillon?

The Top is a character I'm really interested in bringing to the show so that's definitely, we're talking about hopefully down the road being able to bring The Top to life.

What would making here a woman add to the character?

I think it's just a new take. It's a new way in. As writers, we always want to challenge ourselves. Being able to take something and just turn it on its head always makes it interesting. So that's basically what we want to do. Whether the character is a male or female — I'm not confirming that The Top is a female, but anytime we can do things that are just different, I at least respond to them.

Did you cast Frances?

Yeah, we're going to bring Magenta onto the show. So we're really excited to see Magenta's split personality and ability to manipulate metal. So we're really excited to bring Magenta to the show.

When Greg Berlanti has the idea to do a musical crossover with Supergirl, do you just inherit that?

Greg oversees everything. Greg is very involved with every single show so when you see his passion, it's very infectious and we all get very passionate about it. In season one, in episode 12 when we had the teleporter, we had a brief musical where Barry and Caitlin were doing karaoke in the bar. So to be able to use the abilities that Grant has, his singing ability, Jesse, gets everybody else excited.

Caitlin has suffered so much loss. How is she going to be doing when we return from Flashpoint to our Caitlin?

Zoom really messed her up. This is a perfect opportunity where Caitlin gets to embrace her family which is essentially everyone at S.T.A.R. Labs. Together they'll help her move past things, move on down the road.

Have you completed writing the Flashpoint arc?

Flashpoint isn't going to be the entire season, but as with every choice in life, there are always consequences to your actions. With Barry's choice to go back and save his mom, those ramifications will play out throughout the season.

What are some interesting themes for the other characters you've been able to explore through Flashpoint in addition to Barry?

You know, the thing that we got to do in season two when we went to Earth-2 was we got to see a similar but different character. On Earth-2, Iris West was a doppelganger so when we go into a Flashpoint universe, we get to explore a distinction without a difference amongst the characters. So that gives us as writers a lot of interesting ways to explore the characters.

Are you done with Killer Frost or could we see her again?

That's a good question. I think seeing her on Earth-2 was one of the highlights for me personally. I remember when we first met with Andrew [Kreisberg] about the show, we were asking him, "So is she going to be Killer Frost?" He said, "Everything's possible." So just seeing her be Killer Frost on Earth-2 has kind of always kept me excited about that possibility.

Even seeing her dress up as Killer Frost on Earth 1 and trying to play the part.

Yeah, that trick. Look, any time you can see Danielle [Panabaker] play Killer Frost is exciting. So when we got to do that on Earth 2, it's always something that is always on the table. It's just a very exciting aspect of the show is being able to see characters and know what their potential future is because of the comic books. Then how can we mine that as much as we want.

Does Cisco have any new toys this season?

When we meet Cisco he's a billionaire. So as with many billionaires, they have many, many toys.

Do any of them come from the Flash comics or are they completely new inventions?

Well, he still has his goggles.

Do you know which episode Kevin Smith is going to direct this year?

That's a good question. Honestly, right now I'm writing so much I'm just blanking to be honest. Kevin's for sure directing Supergirl. He directed a phenomenal episode last season. I feel like when it comes to directors, we're very blessed. We have this diverse group of directors. They just bring their A game every time. The thing with Kevin is he's such a huge fan of the show and he's been a huge fan of The Flash for a long time that it's just infectious. It just gets everybody excited.

What will Tom Felton's character add to the CSI/police storyline of Barry and Joe?

Tom is a phenomenal actor. I was a huge fan of his from Harry Potter obviously and Murder in the First. He's playing Julian Albert. We've never really gotten to explore Barry in his lab. To have an adversary in his lab we find to be very interesting. There's a lot of ways to go with that. Tom just brings this gravitas to the show that we're just very excited to have him be a part of.

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The Flash season 3 premieres tonight, October 4, at 8/7c.